Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Learning to Dance

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.
--Job 2:7




Could it be that the church fire was a good thing? Perhaps a blessing to me, to my children?

The previous post sparked some interesting debate in the comments section on the sovereignty of God and the free will of men. And in following that rabbit trail of logic this occurs to me...

I have learned a few things. I have learned things about myself, about my children, about my Lord. I have learned who my children really are and what they need from me for them to grow closer to God. I have learned that I am a foolish man who thinks much too highly of himself. And I have found the more I rely on God the stronger I am.

Background: My mentally handicapped child was left alone. He started listening to whispers in the dark. He played with fire. By 2:00 a.m. the police were handcuffing him in my living room.

The sanctuary where my wife and I renewed our wedding vows, the baptistry where my children proclaimed their acceptance of Jesus as messiah and creator, the place where a memorial service was held for my first child, was a charred shell, awaiting clean up, insurance estimators, and demolition.

Could it be a good thing?

Look what it forced me to do. My eyes have been opened to who my children are, truly are. I work diligently with them now, instructing them in my faith, in how to pray and how to draw closer to God. I am a fiercer advocate for them at school because I know precisely where they need help (from counseling and testing). I am helping them to engage with the world in healthy ways.

I have seen more clearly the struggles of my wife and what I need to being doing to help her. She needs to know how much I love her. I’m finding new ways to show her. I rub her feet, I give her times of solitude, I anoint her with oil, I treat her tenderly.
I pray for her each night.

I have become more reliant on God, realizing that there is nothing truly under my control, that obedience is the only commodity I have to offer my Lord.

And there is my prayer life. I pray much more than ever before. Sometimes, while I am walking the track and praying at lunch, I have to contain myself because I feel such joy while praying that I want to throw my hands up, dance about, (That would certainly distract the students in the classrooms that look out onto the athletic field!)

I place myself at His service. I know now that I cannot control my own fate, and I never could.

It sounds like a twelve step program where the addict states that he is not in control of his vice and that only through a higher power can he be saved. I am such an addict. I am addicted to sin. I keep thinking that it is all about me, that I am important, that what I think or say or feel is what matters, is more important than anything else, even His will.

I’ve been trying to control what was uncontrollable, and it is no wonder that I have been frustrated with the results.

Could it be that the church fire has been good for me?

My son says that he kept hearing a voice. It was telling him to play with fire. That it was bright, and pretty, and good to see. He isn’t schizophrenic (according to the in-depth evaluation). But he heard a whisper telling him to do things he knew were wrong.

That fire placed so much of what I held as my area of authority into the hands of others. My home, my children, my parenting, are scrutinized by other authorities. The fire marshall, the district attorney, even psychologists and counselors’ words have great weight in what happens in my home, in my family.

Could it be that the church fire was a good thing?

Some feel that God is in control of all things.

I agree.

Some feel that God causes all things to happen.

I disagree.

1. God is in control.

2. There is an evil force that acts against our Lord.

I’m unsure how to reconcile this antimony, but I know that no matter how bad things get, no matter how screwed up life is, He can make good of it.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." --Romans 8:28

I have been a proud man. My father didn’t graduate high school and I have a master’s degree. I like that. I love to read and have made myself a wealth of useless information. I kind of like that too. But I have been humbled, and to my surprise, I like that as well.

You see, I have found that as I admit how weak I am, how little control over my life I have, the stronger I feel!

There have been times when life has knocked me flat. I mean really knocked me flat. Regular readers are aware of some of those times.

But today I feel something different. I feel that when I was laid low someone came along side me and placed a strong, gentle hand on my arm. I was helped to my knees, to my feet. That hand steadied me, helped me to walk along a stony path, guided me. And oh my, has my gait changed! I went from a shambling walk in the shadows of a deep canyon to dancing along, praising my Lord.

Oh sure, things still... well, suck. But that heavy load that I have been carrying, well my big brother’s got it!

I could provide a litany of things that need my attention, that concern me, that are within my responsibility to guide and repair and supervise. But when I give those burdens to my Lord (not shirking the responsibility, but relinquishing the eventual outcome) I find my feet doing something different.

Instead of shambling, I am dancing. There is a skip in my heart, in my soul, that finds its way into my feet. I suspect that this dance will grow the more I learn that I have nothing truly in my control. I suspect that as I continue, this awkward shuffling dance will grow into a full fledged frenzy of praise. I am currently like some middle school boy, unsure of how to make his suddenly large feet keep time at his first dance. But by the time my Lord invites me home I think I will be dancing the way King David did before the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:12-15), with wild abandon.

So, I think the church fire may have become a good thing. I was humbled, and that is a good thing. I learned who my kids truly are, and that is good. I have learned to pray more, and to care more for my wife, and to love others more, and all those are good things. I have discovered that the smaller I am, the stronger I am.

The fire was not good in itself. Satan was at work there, slithering his way into my son, into my family, into my church. But I also know that my Lord God has the final word in all things and that no matter what bad the Deceiver brings about... God works for the good of those who love Him.

So, to the point of this post. I wanted to just say, that though my back is out, and my fingers are bleeding, and though my children demand more of me than ever before, I am filled with a joy that I can hardly contain. I am so eager to sing the praises of my Lord God! I am so happy to be alive. I am so grateful and... maybe if it took an outrageous attack by a force of evil to put me in this place, then there is more going on than meets the eye.

I must be following the right shepherd.

Jesus lead on, I will follow!


32 comments:

wilsonian said...

You are, perhaps, the wisest man I have ever known. Grateful to have found you. Grateful that you share your lessons...

Coco said...

We are never alone...
even in the most darkest hours-
God is ALWAYS with us.

Thankfully, everyone is alright...
the church (building) can be rebuilt.

Take Care!

4evergapeach said...

I do believe everything happens for a reason. No, God does not cause bad things to happen, it is man's free will that more oft than not that causes these. How we react to them and learn from them can be a blessing in disguise.

I remember once reading a version of "Footprints in the Sand". It was a bit different in that in his vision he saw Footprints all scattered about and asked the Lord about this. HE answered - "That is when we were dancing"

van.diesel said...

Your post reminded of two articles a friend wrote that both, i think, touch on the topics you are dealing with; one was called (oddly enough) Plucking Eyes Out as a Gift from God? and the other When Painful Things are Good. Short reads, but I found them profound. Perhaps they will strengthen you today.

Press on, press on.

Kitty Cheng said...

Yes you must be following the right shepherd! Glad we have the same Lord that we can follow =) God Bless you CS!

Christopher said...

No God doesn't cause all things, but is able to work his good (Christlikeness) out of anything that happens in those who love him. I think that's the best way to understand Rom 8.28. Roms 8.28 and theodicy (search theodicy on my blog) stuff has consumed a great deal of my last few years and graduate study. You sound like you would have alot in common with Greg Boyd's book: "Is God to blame." Are you familar with him? I think that the book of Job ended before it ended happy . . . I think a latter editor came along and made it have a "nicer" ending. Anyway check out Greg Boyd . . . he sounds like how you're thinking. He's into Spiritual warfare and finding a balance between God's control and human free will. prayers to you and yours.

Corry said...

I am grateful so much good came out of it. I join you in praise!

God's Grace.

David said...

Again, I am touched to come here and read a message that could be aimed directly at me.

"There have been times when life has knocked me flat. I mean really knocked me flat". Oh how I understand that statement. I just need to find your way of coping with life. And reading you is beginning to help I hope.

bjk said...

'I have discovered that the smaller I am, the stronger I am'

In a sentence.....so much in that sentence....

So I Go said...

love what you've posted here. chock full of so many truths.

you are a very wise man, for many reasons, but to continually acknkowledge all that God is doing in the midst of your suffering is truly amazing.. and a blessing to witness..

peace, jeff

Lorna said...

raw honesty here and so much courage. God is good because He walks with you andleads you by the hand :)

Pia said...

no matter how bad our situation is, it'll be better because God can make something good out of it.

i agree with what lorna said.

blessings to you and happy weekend.

Seeker said...

God is using you for His glory.

Kc said...

CS I know that only eyes of faith can see His blessings in the face of apparent tragedy and I thank God for yours.

The topic for debate here seems prevalent on many sites these days. I will offer one quote from Dorsey who said, “God is in control, but not controlling”. The implication being We are allowed choices but we are given limits too.

Thank you for being such a blessing

paul asjes said...

thank you for your post. it is encouraging to read your stuff. i love romans 8:28

God is good.

ellen said...

What a poignant and beautiful post. I have been feeling pretty "knocked flat" myself lately, and it is, as you describe, strangely empowering. My strength and my humility have grown out of adversity.

MMM said...

Awwww. Can I dance with you on the athletic field? I don't care if people watch ;)

Kitty Cheng said...

hey CS and mmm, i'd love to dance with you too!

Gayla said...

Curious, I just wanted to pass this along to you. I'm reading a book right now called Brokenness, by Lon Solomon

It's been fascinating to read. The author is a saved Jew, and he's a pastor. He and his wife have a handicapped daughter. The book's premise is based on the book of Job. It's about how God uses us as He breaks us. Anyway, I highly recommend it! :)

BHGA said...

I am so blessed by all that you write; you bring such honor to our Lord and are indeed a man of dignity. I pray for your children , your wife and you daily. Many blessings to you as He continues to grace the words you write with peace and honesty, and with a servant's loving heart.

Donna

Matthew Wireman said...

Curious Servant ~

Thank you for your comments on my blog. I enjoyed reading over this post and wanted to make a brief comment. The world is subjected to futility, not willingly, but by his (that is, God) in HOPE. God has subjected the entire creation to futility. The picture is further filled out by the picture of a woman in labor. Verse 22 and following:

22 For we know that sthe whole creation thas been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have uthe firstfruits of the Spirit, vgroan inwardly as wwe wait eagerly for adoption as sons, xthe redemption of our bodies. 24 For yin this hope we were saved. Now zhope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we await for it with patience.

As Luther said that God has Satan on a leash, so it is for every believer. God has the lions of destruction on a leash, like in The Pilgrim's Progress. So we can take heart that not only does God know, but he has purpose in suffering. He is taken by surprise as some have suggested. He is sovereign and the picture is much larger than our finite site allows us.

Thank you for reminding us to look to the purpose in the suffering rather than shaking a wicked fist at God and blaming him rather than praising him.

Gayla said...

Question: In stating that you believe God is in control, but that there's an evil force acting against Him, do you then believe that the evil force is equal to God in power? That they're equal forces, but that one is good and one is evil and that they're 'duking' it out, so to speak?

Even in Job, satan could do NOTHING apart from what God said he could do. So in reality, God not only allows and is in control, but He orchestrates.

Job even said, "For calamity from God is a terror to me, And because of His majesty I can do nothing. (31:23)

Another example: The tsunami or the hurricanes. Do you believe God caused those things, as well as everything like them? Or, do you believe those things simply occur outside of His divine plan/will and that He then has to 'decide' whether or not to allow them?

Isaiah 45:7
I am the LORD, and there is no other, The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.

For me, it is a great comfort to know that ALL things are created/caused/allowed - whatever - by God Himself. It lets me rest assured in the fact that, as the sovereign, there is no greater force in the universe who is capable of ursurping His power.

That's not to say that I understand 'why' He does what He does. These things may appear horrendous to me and my finite way of thinking. But it's different with God.

Fascinating discussion!

Gayla said...

Thought I would at least add the Greek meaning for 'calamity' (which is the word 'evil' in the King James)

ra‛ râ‛âh
rah, raw-aw'
From H7489; bad or (as noun) evil (naturally or morally). This includes the second (feminine) form; as adjective or noun: - adversity, affliction, bad, calamity, + displease (-ure), distress, evil ([-favouredness], man, thing), + exceedingly, X great, grief (-vous), harm, heavy, hurt (-ful), ill (favoured), + mark, mischief, (-vous), misery, naught (-ty), noisome, + not please, sad (-ly), sore, sorrow, trouble, vex, wicked (-ly, -ness, one), worse (-st) wretchedness, wrong. [Including feminine ra’ah; as adjective or noun.]

Lorna said...

CS
I came across this book review and want you to check it out too

http://journalingthroughthevalley.blogspot.com/2005/11/book-review-brokenness-how-god-redeems.html

God meant it for Good - whatever it was. And WE are following the right shepherd, and we know Him because we recognise His voice. And because he is close to us he's knows us by feel too.

be blessed as you journey with Him

Lorna said...

mmm

this might be confirmation but I hadn't read all the comments here, and just did and Gayla - dear friend and sister in Christ- recommends the same book.

:)

curious servant said...

I'm probably wrong (I usually am) and I'm probably going to get corrected by a lot of folks, but here goes...

As for Satan vs. God, I do believe that there is an opposing force. however, to call them equal is absurd. Satan is a creation of the Lord. It is absurd to think that there is any sort of real competition.

I do have some thoughts about Satan, his views, his role, and why he might think he stands a chance, but now isn't the time to discuss it.

So what about natural disasters? I believe that in general the world runs along on the laws of physics that the Lord created. If you build a house on a cliff side, do not be surprised if time and tide take it away. That is also true on larger scales.

But... BUT... within those disaster He does work some amazing miracles. There are some awe-some stories coming out of the hurricane and tsunami events.

And of course, the Lord CAN cause natural disasters. It is His creation, His universe, He holds all things together, and can do ANYTHING.

I love this sort of discussion.

curious servant said...

While I was writing the above comment several folks posted comments of their own.

Thank you folks! I think I shall get that book.

Lorna, I want to especially thank you for your most kind comments (and the link to this blog was sweet also).

Today is our church's 24 hour of prayer day (1st Friday of every month). I am conducting an experiment this evening mixing artistic expression (I love to paint and draw and sculpt) with prayer for two hours.

God bless all of you (even more than He already does).

What's my Mission said...

Wow!!! All I can say is Wow... the faith in those words..wow.

Matthew Wireman said...

CS ~

I understand what you're trying to get at with the fact that nature runs on the laws of physics that the Lord set into motion. However, we must not separate the Lord's hand from using the laws of physics. That is, God does not step back and let nature take its course. Rather, the laws of physics we see at work are the hand of God.

26 Behold, God is great, and we know him not;
the number of his years is unsearchable.
27 For he draws up the drops of water;
they distill his mist in rain,
28 which the skies pour down
and drop on mankind abundantly.
29 Can anyone understand the spreading of the
clouds,
the thunderings of his pavilion?
30 Behold, he scatters his lightning about him
and covers the roots of the sea.
31 For by these he judges peoples;
he gives food in abundance.
32 He covers his hands with the lightning
and commands it to strike the mark.
33 Its crashing declares his presence;*
the cattle also declare that he rises.

The tender rain that waters the earth and the torrents that cause mudslides come from the omnipotent hand of God. As humans we need to try and wrap our brain around the fact that God does all these things. Not only can God perform natural disasters, but he does cause them (Jonah 1.4,12). Nature is the manifestation of God's majesty, not the result of a Designer who watches things unravel.

The joy comes in the fact that God is like a tender hen that gathers her chicks under her wing while the lightning and tornadoes come. May we refuge in him when understanding is not ours.

Ragna said...

Will my brother,
I love you so much and rejoice with you in your joy of seeing that perhaps God IS doing something good in and through the fire.
Your new eyes to see your children for who they are is heartwarming, and your love for B is equally heartwarming.
I rejoice with you and your sweet family.
Your sister in Christ,
Ragna

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